What Two Groups Has Mark Twain Been Comparing

What Two Groups Have Mark Twain Been Comparing?

Mark Twain has been comparing two very distinct groups of people for many years; those he calls “the Gilded Age” and those he calls “the Plebeians.” Twain’s view of the Gilded Age can be summed up as “wealthy, educated, powerful people living luxurious lifestyles with little regard for the common good” while his view of the Plebeians is “a passionate, resourceful, and strong working-class with a strong moral foundation.” He asserts that these two groups are the cornerstones of America and sees the strengths and weaknesses in both.
Twain paints a vivid picture of what these two groups of people were like in America during his time and is often critical of both. He paints a picture of the Gilded Age as a group of people who are “too busy enjoying the finer things in life to care about their fellow man.” He saw them as selfish and shallow people who were out of touch with the realities of everyday life and had no desire to change. On the other hand, he saw the Plebeians as a passionate and moral group of people who worked hard to make ends meet and would do anything to help their fellow man. They may not have had the resources of the wealthy, but he admired their “basic human decency.”
Twain was critical of both groups, but he did have a certain admiration for the Plebeians. He saw them as humble and hardworking people who had a strong sense of responsibility and were in tune with the needs of their communities. He points out that the Gilded Age was quick to forget the harsh realities of life and chose to ignore the plight of those living in poverty, while the Plebeians were fully aware of the struggles of the working-class and did their best to assist in any way possible.
In addition, Twain also pointed out that the Gilded Age was primarily focused on material wealth and status, while the Plebeians valued more meaningful pursuits such as family, trust, and loyalty. He saw the Gilded Age people as the exact opposite of the Plebeians, as a group of people who placed their own pleasure and comfort above the needs of their fellow man.
Though Twain did not always agree with the values of either of the groups, he was a keen observer and his work has served as an insightful commentary on the state of our society today. He speaks to the heart of both groups and is highly critical of their actions. Despite this, he appears to have a greater appreciation for the work and values of the Plebeians, perhaps because of their resilience and morality.

Background Information

Mark Twain was a 19th century American writer who was celebrated for his wit and fictional accounts of life in the American West. He was born in Missouri and worked as a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi river before becoming a full-time writer. He wrote stories such as “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and was known for his satirical take on the political and social issues of his time.
Twain wrote extensively about the differences between the two groups and saw the Gilded Age as a group of people who sought pleasure and status at the expense of others, while the Plebeians were the ones who toiled hard and fought for their rights. In his opinion, the Gilded Age seemed to have lost their sense of empathy and many had become a “feckless and selfish lot” due to their newfound wealth and privilege.

Data and Statistics

Research shows that during the Gilded Age (1876-1900), the top 1% of income earners held a much larger share of national wealth than the bottom 99% combined. The wealth was so heavily concentrated that the bottom 99% held less than 10% of overall wealth. This was in stark contrast to the period before the Gilded Age where the top 1% held only around 15-20% of national wealth. The gap between the wealthy and the poor grew significantly larger in this period, creating more visible divisions between the two groups. This led to a more tumultuous period of unrest and resentment between the two groups.

Perspectives from Experts

Experts have examined Mark Twain’s views on the two groups he is comparing and have found that he views both as having their own strengths and weaknesses. Historian Paul Johnson states, “Twain clearly sees the Gilded Age as a period of great wealth and privilege, but he also sees the darker side of it. He argues that the new wealthy class has become out of touch with the realities of life for the working-class and thus has failed to recognize the need for greater change and reform.”
On the other hand, Johnson also believes that Twain saw the Plebeian group as much more self-reliant and attuned to the changing needs of the world. He notes that Twain admired this group’s “natural sense of morality and resilience” even though he disagreed with some of their beliefs and actions.

Insight and Analysis

My own analysis of Mark Twain’s views of these two groups leads me to believe that he sees them both as playing important roles in American society. In many ways, the Gilded Age has provided an almost unparalleled level of wealth and privilege for some, yet this has come at the cost of a large segment of the population living in poverty. On the other hand, the Plebeians are seen as the hardworking backbone of our nation and Twain respects their commitment to bettering their lives and the lives of those around them.

Implications and Solutions

The implications of Mark Twain’s comparison of these two groups are far-reaching. His words serve as a reminder that even in today’s world, the struggle between the wealthy and the poor is still very real.
To tackle this issue, it is important that we focus on measures that provide more opportunities for the less privileged to excel. This can include increasing access to education, providing support to small businesses, and giving the working-class the tools and the resources they need to succeed. It is only through bridging the gap between the two groups that we will be able to build a brighter future for our nation.

Government Initiatives

In recent years, there has been an increased focus on government initiatives to address the issue of wealth inequality. This can include policies such as raising the minimum wage, expanding access to healthcare and providing more education support for underserved communities.
Additionally, there have been a number of initiatives aimed at increasing the opportunities for lower-income families to become more economically secure. This includes programs such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is designed to give lower income families more money to support their families, and initiatives like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which provides nutrition assistance to low-income individuals and families.
These initiatives have been largely successful in providing more economic opportunities to low-income families and can serve as a model for further action on this issue.

Global Movements

In recent years, there has also been a rise in global movements that are focused on addressing wealth inequality. One of the best known of these is the Occupy Wall Street movement, which began in 2011 and focused on the disproportionate power and influence of large banking and financial institutions.
Other movements such as the Fight for $15 and the March for Our Lives have also been active in raising awareness about the issue of inequality and have pushed people to take action and make their voices heard. These movements have not only highlighted the issue of inequality but also provided a platform for people from all walks of life to have their stories heard and push for meaningful change.

Implications for Society

Mark Twain’s comparison of the Gilded Age and the Plebeians serves to remind us that the struggle between the wealthy and the poor is something that is still ongoing. It is important to recognize that both groups play an important role in our society and that any attempt to bridge the gap between them requires us to ensure that the basic needs of all members of society are met.
Moreover, it is also important to note that while government initiatives, global movements, and the efforts of individuals can play a role in combatting inequality, it is ultimately up to us as a society to ensure that everyone has an equal chance to succeed and that no one is denied the basic rights and opportunities we all deserve.

The Digital Divide

In today’s modern world, the digital divide is becoming an increasingly important issue that affects both the Gilded Age and the Plebeians. Those in the Gilded Age are more likely to have access to technology and the internet, while those in the Plebeian group are more likely to be without access to these technologies. This creates a dangerous gap that threatens to further expand the divide between the two groups.
To tackle this issue, it is important to ensure that everyone has access to digital technologies and the internet. This can include initiatives such as providing digital literacy classes, expanding broadband access in underserved communities, and incentivizing businesses to provide access to technology. It is only with greater access to these technologies that the Plebeian group can hope to compete in the digital age.


Mark Twain’s comparison of the Gilded Age and Plebeians serves as an important reminder of the ever-present tension between wealth and poverty in our society. Although it is often difficult to bridge this divide, it is important to remember that both groups have their own strengths and play an important role in our society. Therefore, it is up to us as individuals, government, and global movements to ensure that everyone has access to the same basic opportunities and rights.

Dannah Hannah is an established poet and author who loves to write about the beauty and power of poetry. She has published several collections of her own works, as well as articles and reviews on poets she admires. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, with a specialization in poetics, from the University of Toronto. Hannah was also a panelist for the 2017 Futurepoem book Poetry + Social Justice, which aimed to bring attention to activism through poetry. She lives in Toronto, Canada, where she continues to write and explore the depths of poetry and its influence on our lives.

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